Africa: African Union and Women's Rights, 07/25/03

AFRICA ACTION Africa Policy E-Journal July 25, 2003 (030725)

Africa: African Union and Women's Rights (Reposted from sources cited below)

On July 11, the African Union summit in Maputo, Mozambique adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. The protocol will enter in force after it has been ratified by fifteen states. This posting contains two press releases on this important step to establish a legal framework for protection of womens' rights throughout the continent, and a report from a gathering of women's organizations before the African Union summit noting needed steps to make womens' participation in the African Union more effective.

The full text of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa can be found through the website of the Human Rights Education Association at: category_id=31&category_type=3 [type URL on one line] The text includes separate articles on a wide range of issues, in addition to strong general statements on elimination of discrimination against women and respect for dignity.

Additional documents from the African Union summit are available at or

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African Union adopts protocol on the rights of African women

Equality Now

July 14, 2003

Contact: Lakshmi Anantnarayan (212) 586-0906;



New York, July 14, 2003 - On 11 July 2003, the African Union adopted the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, a supplementary protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples? Rights, which was adopted in 1981. Advancing the human rights of African women through creative, substantive and detailed language, the new Protocol covers a broad range of human rights issues. For the first time in international law, it explicitly sets forth the reproductive right of women to medical abortion when pregnancy results from rape or incest or when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the health or life of the mother. In another first, the Protocol explicitly calls for the legal prohibition of female genital mutilation.

In other equality advances for women, the Protocol calls for an end to all forms of violence against women including unwanted or forced sex, whether it takes place in private or in public, and a recognition of protection from sexual and verbal violence as inherent in the right to dignity. It endorses affirmative action to promote the equal participation of women, including the equal representation of women in elected office, and calls for the equal representation of women in the judiciary and law enforcement agencies as an integral part of equal protection and benefit of the law. Articulating a right to peace, the Protocol also recognizes the right of women to participate in the promotion and maintenance of peace.

The broad range of economic and social welfare rights for women set forth in the Protocol includes the right to equal pay for equal work and the right to adequate and paid maternity leave in both private and public sectors. It also calls on states to take effective measures to prevent the exploitation and abuse of women in advertising and pornography. The rights of particularly vulnerable groups of women, including widows, elderly women, disabled women and 'women in distress,' which includes poor women, women from marginalized population groups, and pregnant or nursing women in detention, are specifically recognized.

Equality Now, an international human rights organization, convened a meeting in January 2003 of African women's rights activists to facilitate a collective review of the draft and coordinated advocacy for the adoption of a text that would truly advance the rights of African women in international law. Subsequent concerted lobbying of African governments by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and networks all over Africa on a consensus text resulted in significant gains to the original draft. The Africa Office of Equality Now, based in Nairobi, acted as a liaison with the African Union to push for expert discussion of the Protocol as well as strong NGO representation in the process.

The final Protocol is indicative of the achievements that can be made when governments and civil society use their collective resources to advance the cause of human rights. "The adoption of this Protocol marks a significant step forward in promoting the rights of women within Africa and we hope lays the groundwork for further gains for all women around the world," said Faiza Jama Mohamed, Equality Now's Africa Regional Director.


Amnesty International

Press Release

AI Index: AFR 01/007/2003 (Public)

News Service No: 175 21 July 2003

African Union: Adoption of the Protocol on the Rights of Women - positive step towards combating discrimination and violence against women The African Union's (AU) adoption of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is a significant step in the efforts to promote and ensure respect for the rights of African women.

Adopted on 11 July 2003, at the second summit of the African Union in Maputo, Mozambique, the Protocol, among others, requires African governments to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women in Africa and to promote equality between women and men.

The Protocol also commits African governments, if they have not already done so, to include in their national constitutions and other legislative instruments these fundamental principles and ensure their effective implementation.

In addition, it obligates them to integrate a gender perspective in their policy decisions, legislation, development plans, and activities, and to ensure the overall well-being of women. The Protocol will enter into force after fifteen states have ratified.

In March 2003, Amnesty International urged the African Union ministerial meeting convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to agree on the measures to be included in the Protocol to include provisions that would ensure greater accountability of states to eliminate prejudices and practices that impede African women's rights to equality and freedom from discrimination. The organization also reiterated the need for African governments to send a clear message that the human rights of women are inalienable, integral and indivisible part of internationally human rights.

"Now that the Protocol has been adopted, African governments should show their commitment to end discrimination and violence against women by ensuring a speedy and full ratification to pave the way for a prompt entry into force of the instrument, and its effective implementation," Amnesty International said.

If fully ratified and implemented, the Protocol could become an important framework for ending impunity for all attacks on human rights of women in Africa." We urge all the fifty-three member states of the African Union to pursue the process of ratification within the shortest possible time," Amnesty International said.


The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa was adopted on 11 July 2003 by the Assembly of the African Union second summit in Maputo Mozambique.

The Protocol will enter into force thirty (30) days after the deposit of the fifteenth (15) instrument of ratification. The Protocol will complement the African Charter in ensuring the promotion and protection of the human rights of women in Africa. Its provisions include the right to life, integrity and security of person, right to participation in the political and decision making process, right to inheritance, right to food security and adequate housing, protection of women against harmful traditional practices and protection of women in armed conflict. Others include access of women to justice and equal protection before the law.

The implementation of the Protocol will be supervised by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the body established to monitor compliance of states parties to the African Charter, pending the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. Also, states parties to the Protocol commit themselves to indicate in their periodic reports to the African Commission the legislative and other measures undertaken to ensure the full realization of the rights recognized in the Protocol. The first African Union Ministerial Conference in May 2003 in Kigali, Rwanda calls upon member states of the AU to take all necessary measures for early adoption, ratification of the Protocol.

[Public Document - For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: For latest human rights news view]



June 24, 2003


We, the representatives of African women's organizations and networks working on gender and development issues, gathered on the eve of the 2nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, at a women's pre- summit meeting, convened by the Foundation for Community Development (FDC) in collaboration with UNIFEM (Southern Africa Regional Office), Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS), African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), Centre for Human Rights (University of Pretoria), Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Unit, Forum Mulher, Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) Mozambique, and the African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) in Maputo, Mozambique from 23 to 24 June 2003.


- The recognition of the promotion of gender equality as a key principle and goal of the African Union; and

- The adoption, by Heads of State and Government, of the principle of 50% gender representation in the African Union.

Affirming our support for the outcome of meetings as embodied in the:

- Durban Declaration on Gender and Mainstreaming and the Effective Participation of Women in the African Union (30 June 2003); and

- Dakar Strategy on Mainstreaming Gender and Women's Effective Participation in the African Union (26 April 2003).

Appreciating the role and contributions of the African Women's Committee on Peace and Development on the Continent.


- The establishment of the Women, Gender and Development Directorate in the office of the Chairperson of the African Union;

- The entrenchment of the Statutes of the African Union Commission, of the principle of gender equality in the recruitment of the Commission's senior staff and top management;

- The opportunity for civil society participation in the activities of the African Union through the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC); and

- The efforts of Heads of State and Government in their endeavour to address poverty through the New partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).


- The progress made in the elaboration of the draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; and

- The openness of the NEPAD Secretariat to the secondment of gender specialists and opportunities for gender mainstreaming.

Concerned that:

- Despite commendable action by Heads of State and Government in mainstreaming gender, there is need for concerted acceleration of the process;

- There is as yet no provision for a Specialized Technical Committee on Gender;

- The Women, Gender and Development Directorate is severely under-resourced;

- There is no mechanism for dialogue between women's organizations and networks and the key decision-making structures of the African Union;

- The Pan-African Parliament Protocol provision that at least one of the five representatives from each Member State must be a woman, is inadequate;

- There is an acute under-representation of women ambassadors and other plenipotentiaries accredited to the African Union;

- Despite the Continent having the highest incidence of maternal mortality in the world, legal, policy, programmatic and budgetary interventions are not commensurate with the gravity of the challenge;

- Certain discriminatory and harmful practices expose women to dying during pregnancy and birth;

- Discriminatory laws and harmful traditional practices continue to exacerbate the high incidence of HIV/AIDS, particularly among women and girls;

- Certain parts of the Continent are experiencing famine and Africa is become a dumping ground for genetically modified food and seeds;

- Women in agriculture face many constraints, including inadequate access to credit, information and the acquisition of skills;

- Despite the fact that women are responsible for up to eighty percent of the total food production in Africa, they generally lack access to, and control and tenure of, land; and

- War and conflict negatively impact on women in that among other things, it disrupts women's major source of livelihood and food security.

Recognising the need:

- To elaborate and implement an African Union Gender Policy and Declaration;

- For an effective gender mainstreaming strategy and efficient coordinating framework for managing gender issues on the continent;

- For sensitization on gender issues throughout the African Union; and

- To clarify the status and role of the African Women's Committee on Peace and Development.

Reaffirming our commitment to building strategic partnerships at all levels and in the activities of the African Union, we hereby recommend the following to the 3rd Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers and the 2nd Ordinary Session of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union:

A. African Union

1. That an African Union Gender Policy and Declaration, as well as a gender mainstreaming strategy and coordinating framework, are put in place as soon as possible;

2. That a Specialized Technical Committee on Women and gender be established under Article 14 of the African Union Constitutive Act; and

3. That adequate resources be availed for the work of the Women, Gender and Development Directorate.

B. Participation of African Women in the Organs of the African Union

1. That the Pan African Parliament Protocol should be amended to allow for at least two women representatives out of the five representatives from each member country;

2. That the Economic, Social and Cultural Council ensures gender parity in its membership; and

3. That a high level mechanism is provided for dialogue between women's oganizations and networks and the key decisionmaking structures of the African Union.

C. Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa

1. That the Draft Protocol is adopted and the mechanism for ratification be put into place as to reinforce it as soon as possible;

2. That Member States consider withdrawing reservations entered to Articles of the draft Protocol with a view to strengthening the final Protocol.

D. The New Partnership for Africa's development (NEPAD)

1. That the establishment of a task team to ensure that specific issues faced by poor women are addressed in poverty reduction strategies, as envisaged in para 119 of the NEPAD, be expedited; and

2. The rapid implementation of paragraphs 132-137 of the NEPAD, pertaining to agriculture

E. Maternal Mortality

1. The adoption of concrete legal, policy and programmatic interventions to curb the high incidence of maternal mortality;

2. Prioritising the commitment of adequate financial resources to health care services and measures aimed at reducing maternal mortality, at a regional and national levels; and

3. Eradicating discriminatory and harmful practices against women that expose them to dying during pregnancy and birth.


1. That all Member States establish as a matter of national security and stability, comprehensive laws and strategies to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic;

2. That HIV/AIDS policies and programming interventions take due cognizance of the gender implications of the pandemic.

G. Agriculture

1. That Member States adopt and implement policies and legislation to ensure equal access to, and control and ownership of, land by women;

2. The introduction of measures to facilitate women's access to credit, information and skills training;

3. That Member States acknowledge that food security strategies imply necessarily the empowerment of rural women; and

4. The establishment of an African food bank reserve to be used in cases of emergency.

Done in Maputo, Mozambique on 24 June 2003.

ABANTU for Development (Regional Office for East and Southern Africa Office) Africa Gender Institute University of Cape Town African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) African Union Women, Gender and Development Directorate African Women's Committee on Peace and Development (AWCPD) African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) Akina Mana wa Africa Associacao das Mulhers Empresarias Associacaon das Mulhers Juristas de Mozambique Association Nationale de Soutien aux Enfants em Difficulte et em Institution (ANSEDI) Association Tunisienne des Meres Center for Human Rights, University of Pretoria Center for Reproductive Rights Commissao Africana dos Direitos Humanos e dos Povos Commission on Gender Equality South Africa Development Bank of South Africa Economic Commission of Africa African Center for Gender and Development Embassy of Finland, Maputo Equality Now Africa Regional Office Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS) Forum do ONG Femininas de Norte, Provincia da Zambezia Forum for Africa Women Educationalists (FAWE) Forum Mulher Fundacao para Desenvolvimento da Communidade (FDC) Gabinete Juridico da Mulher, Pemba, Mozambique Ministerio de Coordinacao da Accao Social, Mozambique Ministerio de Saude, Mozambique Modeste, Societe Civile du Congo DRC et OPDAL Muleidi Office for the Status of Women, Northern Cape, RSA PACFA (First Lady's Office Rwanda) SADC, Gender Unit SADC, Parliamentarians South African High Commission Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) UNDP UNFPA UNHCR Uniao Geral das Cooperatives (UGC) WLSA, Mozambique WWGG Women and Law in Southern Africa (WiLSA) Women's Caucus, Assembleia da Republica da Mozambique Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF)

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Date distributed (ymd): 030725 Region: Continent-Wide Issue Areas: +gender/women+ +political/rights+ +security/peace+


Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Action" <> Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 09:31:46 -0500 Subject: Africa: African Union and Women's Rights